You Are What You Say: Democrats and Republicans in Blue and Red

Our latest podcast is called “How Biased Is Your Media?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes or get the RSS feed.)

It includes an interview with University of Chicago economist Matthew Gentzkow, who discusses a study he coauthored with Jesse Shapiro about newspaper bias. They used a sample of 433 newspapers and sorted the phrases favored by Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

Here, in visual form using Wordle, are the Democrats’ favorite words:

And the Republicans’ favorites:

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  1. Mark West says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • tudza says:

      As I understand it, the colors used are supposed to alternate, so red and blue should not be associated with either party. Don’t know if they have been locked in now by public opinion.

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    • Terry says:

      I remember them being purple and yellow in the 80s and 90s?

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  2. Clancy says:

    Odd that “Stem” is so much larger than “Cell” What else are they talking about “Stem”s for?

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    • JB says:

      STEM – Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics

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      • kshankar says:

        Could be, but why would Congressional Republicans use “Stem” in that context?

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      • Jason says:

        STEM for sci, tech, engr, and math, is a huge buzzword in Washington. It ties together economic competitiveness, education reform, and public-private investment strategies. Republicans love the idea of supporting STEM corporations, e.g., privatizing parts of NASA’s work, while Democrats love the investment in education, e.g., closing the gap between women and men in the STEM workforce. Popular issue from all sides; therefore, everyone looks for a STEM angle now when pushing their pet policies in DC.

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      • Joe J says:

        Can’t reply to the kshankar post below, for some reason.
        “Could be, but why would Congressional Republicans use “Stem” in that context?”

        Republicans promote STEM in learning, (We need more engineering majors for our workforce) Democrats push more toward arts and humanities. ( We need more bloggers and women studies majors in the workforce.)

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    • Matt says:

      “Economic uncertainties stem from low consumer confidence…”

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    • Travis says:

      “cells” and “cell” appear to be quantified separately.

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  3. Caleb Huitt says:

    Some of the words are weighted the same and in close proximity, which made me wonder about Democrat’s thoughts on the “wage class” system, as well as Republican’s objections to environmentalists trying to preserve the “hate forest”.

    It is also interesting to note that “Republican” and “Republicans” show up in the Democrat’s chart, but the opposite is not the case in the Republican’s. And does “pluripotent” really come up that often in conversation?

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    • Rex McClure says:

      It is also interesting to note that the Democrats frequently discuss “Republican Health”, and the Republicans discuss “Retirement Death Cells”.

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    • Antman says:

      ‘Pluripotent’ occurs a few times when science is discussed in Progressive circles. Conservatives make a reference to the discussions and hundreds of thousands of Republicans start asking what it means.

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  4. James says:

    Arrangement of seemingly unrelated words can d give rise to some oddities. For example, in the bottom center-right of both I can see “President breaks child” (for the Democrats) and “support economic terrorism” (for the Republicans).

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  5. YX says:

    WTF is Card Companies?

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    • J1 says:

      For that matter, what is Priscilla legislation? Some means of increasing creation, no doubt. And do Dems really seek gun-gas balances? I suppose if your in a fight against the Central Violence Corporation, each might come in handy. Or it could be part of the privatize war movement.

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    • Joe J says:

      Credit card companies? most likely.

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  6. Christopher Browne says:

    I suppose that this tells you a bit about how to construct essays that may be expected to “please” the desired listeners.

    I wonder what the Canadian equivalents are; I’m pretty sure that our (Conservative|Liberal|NDP) groups have analogous biases.

    And if you’re trying to ask something of your representative, who might hearken from a different party than you do, it’s kind of useful if you can word things in such a way that you don’t get instantly dismissed due to sounding like you’re coming from a perspective that they don’t care so much about.

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  7. Eric M. Jones. says:

    I am disappointed that the study paper does not give a clear conclusion of “Liberal/Conservative” slant on the news question. Or maybe I just couldn’t see it.

    Curious point of no particular importance–

    The Republican words include proper names: Saddam, Hussein, Janice, Rehnquist, Rogers, Owen, Priscilla; while the Democrats have only Rosa (Parks?).

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  8. Rob Jordan says:

    @Mark West The convention of blue representing the democratic party and red the republican party was established in the 2000 election. You may recall that the election ended in a rather strange way, with recounts in Flordia, associated court cases, and Al Gore ultimately losing in the electoral college despite a majority of the popular vote. In explaining all this, the media made frequent discussion of “blue states” and “red states” resulting in an association of those two colors with the democratic and republican party, which has been carried forward from that point on. Had this occurred in 1996 (when red was representing the democrats and blue the conservatives) we likely would have ended up with the exact opposite system like in Europe, where liberals tend to be represented by the color red, and conservatives by blue.

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    • Nate says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  9. Nick says:

    I thought that the “scholoarly” analysis was pretty weak in this last podcast. Real machine learning techniques (see Standford’s online classes if you need references) would have produced better results. Also, the PQ test that was the basis of the decisions was horribly constructed. It’s dumb to post the answers (how each party voted) in the question, and the issues were so arcane that most people’s political positions can’t be accurately judged by them. Furthermore, it assumes that voting record in congress is tied to polticial position (instead of political party). Of course democrats voted for Obama’s health care bill.

    I was intersted in this topic at first, but as I read the underlying research, I was seriously dissapointed.

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  10. TC says:

    “stem” is larger than “cell” because they have both “cell” and “cells” on the map.

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  11. txdave22 says:

    To both parties, most important word is MONEY, which means power, which means Winning.


    You would not know it from Republican cries of class warfare swirling around Mr. Obama’s new budget, which reiterates his calls for higher taxes on individuals earning more than $200,000 and households earning more than $250,000.

    In fact, affluent Americans have represented a growing portion of the Democratic Party for a generation.



    By 2000, Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee, trailed George W. Bush 54 percent to 43 percent among the highest income group (those earning more than $100,000).

    In winning the presidency four years ago, Mr. Obama defeated Senator John McCain

    by 52 percent to 46 percent among voters in the top income group, those earning more than $200,000.

    The conservative author Charles Murray, in his new book “Coming Apart,” which is about the nation’s widening class divide, identifies “Super ZIP codes” that the “hyper-wealthy and hyper-elite” call home.

    Even as he proposed higher taxes on the wealthy in 2008, Mr. Obama beat Mr. McCain

    in 8 of the top 10 such ZIP codes — by a ratio of 2 to 1 in communities like Atherton, Calif.,

    Gladwyne, Pa., and Chappaqua, N.Y.

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  12. George says:

    Unless I’m missing it, where abortion on either list. Surely that falls in the top 50.

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  13. Al McDermid says:

    Well, I took the Tim Groseclose PQ and I have to say that it not very impressive. I scored a 86.6 (or 92.5; the page reloaded and gave me this second result), which I can see is accurate for the questions it asked, but the range of the questions is so narrow, I doubt its value. In fact, I’m wondering if the entire exercise wasn’t designed to prove his thesis of media bias, because, I’m quite obviously a liberal and I don’t see it (expect where it’s explicitly so, e.g. truthdig). In fact, my main news sources are the Economist and New York Times, and relative to this papers, I find the idea of a liberal bias seriously laughable.

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  14. Joe J says:

    Reminds me about a similar study of OWS posters, where the word counts were tallied. The most used words If I remember right were: Debt, student, college, and loans.
    Which was a bit counter to the claim that they were there actually complaining about bank bailouts.

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  15. Mark says:

    I think a Pareto chart would’ve provide a much more interpretable graphical presentation than this “wordle” graphic. Aside from being cute, why would one want to use this graphic?

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